by Syed Zainul Abedin, Naim-Ul-Karim
DHAKA, July 2 (Xinhua) -- Jute, considered as the "golden fiber" in Bangladesh and a large part of the region, including China and India, has now made a comeback in this country as the world realized the extent of the damage to the environment of plastics and other synthetic substitutes.
Demand for jute and jute products rose to a large extent in Bangladesh since the government banned all plastic bags in March 2002. The government discovered that plastic materials, which clogged waterways, were mainly responsible for the 1988 and 1998 massive floods that submerged two-thirds of Bangladesh, a country of 150 million.
The ban was the world's first-ever nationwide ban on plastic bags. Many countries later adopted similar drastic measures to curb the use of plastic shopping bags. Some have also issued outright bans while others, including many European countries, have imposed stiff fines for those found throwing plastic materials to rivers and other waterways.
Officials here said that jute and jute products are rapidly regaining their lost grounds in the global market as buyers, conscious on need to protect the environment, now favor the use of goods produced from natural fibers.
Bangladesh used to be one of the largest jute producers in the world in 1950s and 60s, along with India and China. Up to mid-20th century, about 80 percent of the world's jute was produced in Bangladesh. In fact, jute was the biggest foreign currency earner in Bangladesh until the 1980s.
But in the 1970s, the jute industry in Bangladesh suffered a huge setback after plastics and other synthetic materials were increasingly used by large businesses, particularly the shopping malls.
Now, more and more people across the world are aware of the factors responsible for global warming and the rise of sea level, resulting in frequent natural calamities.
Khandaker Mokhlesur Rahman, executive director of Bangladesh's Jute Diversified Promotion Center (JDPC), said jute is regaining its glorious past in the country.
"Jute market across the world boomed in the recent years because of extensive global demand for the eco-friendly fiber made products, which also helped change the fate of farmers," Rahman said.
More and more farmers in Bangladesh like those in many other countries in the region are now being again encouraged to cultivate the natural fiber because of soaring global demand.
Currently, Bangladesh is producing 6 to 7 million bales of jute (1 bale equals about 180 kg of jute). Almost one third of the jute produced in Bangladesh is being exported, according to Rahman.
Rahman said that there is still a need to make people aware of the ill effects of the use of synthetic materials, adding that there is a huge market not only locally but also in other countries for diversified jute products.
About 30 million Bangladesh people, including farmers, millers, factory workers, are now directly or indirectly dependent on the jute industry.
Government statistics showed that jute products exported to over 80 countries have earned 1.11 billion U.S. dollars during the fiscal year from July 2010 to June 2011.